They’ve been at this for years. Traveling around the country, preparing for event after event, maintaining their own careers in logging or forestry or as conservation professors — one of them even a former newspaper exec — before the big finale where lights shine, splinters fly, and champions are made.
No, we’re not talking about the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® athletes — even though their stories are much the same. We’re talking about the folks who do the hard work while the cameras aren’t rolling. The guys affectionately referred to on competition day as the “Wood Monkeys.”
After arriving at the Tinley Park Convention Center in Illinois this year, they had the stage set up and ready for a race with razor-sharp axes inside of eight hours. In that time they had the deck perfectly leveled, the timing electronics tuned, five tons of competition wood prepped, and enough spotlights rigged to light up the sun. These roadies don’t need direction or instruction. They just know what to do. Because almost exactly the same crew has been doing it for a decade and more, all of them devoted to a polished show and having a near single-minded focus on the safety of the lumberjack athletes.
Rich Hallett, Head Judge of the U.S. Championship and employer of this legendary crew, speaks to as much. “They’re a tightly knit crew of veterans, these guys. No one ever has to say ‘Go fix that.’ It just gets done. When they adjust the mounting of a springboard pole, they tell the athletes everything that’s being done. And the athletes trust them for that — they’re literally trusting them with their lives.”
That trust? It’s earned. Not only because of their attention to detail, but because the Wood Monkeys are capable of feats that could drop the jaw of a world-champion lumberjack. Take Ed Naile, for instance. Renowned as The Straightest Man with a Chainsaw, his job is to flush cut the competition logs between heats. STIHL measured a set of 100 cuts of his — nearly all were perfectly level, and the worst was off by just half a degree. And Ed eyeballs it every cut.
As you’d expect, it can get tough out there on the deck ensuring a smooth show. The men are seasoned in dealing with wickedly sharp axes and whirring chainsaws, but even so, a slip can happen, an occasional stand breaks, or a log gets loose to cause some havoc. When that happens, they need to be wearing the right kind of workwear.
“For the guys on the deck, it truly is hard work,” Rich says. “There’s a lot going on, and they’re moving in concert like a racing pit crew. Fire Hose® Work Pants are great for working around all that sharp equipment. But the Grindstone™ Boots are just as critical. Sometimes you drop a 300-lb. log on your foot and you’re glad you’re wearing hard toes. We need clothes that can handle the rough treatment out there on the deck.”
Rick didn’t limit his comments to the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS finale though, “Yes, we get our duds for competition day, but the guys wear the gear all year! It’s great when you’re out in the woods or cutting. We were wearing Duluth for years before we partnered with you guys. It’s great having workwear that’s up to the task.”